Banking with tears … Tales from e-payment customers

November 13, 2017

Bank customers are embracing e-payment channels, given their speed and cost-saving benefits. But the gains of digital banking are turning into pains and outright loss of funds for many. The rising cases of e-fraud, insider abuses and poor quality of service are frustrating those using alternative banking channels, such as Point of Sale (PoS), Automated Teller Machines (ATM) cards and  mobile banking Apps. COLLINS NWEZE captures the experiences of some customers. 

Despite getting more interesting by the day, banking has its pains and shortcomings. Think of cell phone-based banking which is getting transactions done within seconds and bringing millions of the unbanked people into the mainstream financial system.

Transactions in the banking halls had dropped by 25 per cent in the last one year, as more customers embrace e-payment. But, mobile banking and many e-payment channels have brought pains and tears to bank customers.

One of such customers is Mrs. Idongesit Umoh, who operates a company account with Diamond Bank Plc. She lost N2.1 million within 30 minutes to fraudsters.

Mrs. Umoh, an entrepreneur and Managing Director of Idong Harrie Limited, is currently at war with her lender, Diamond Bank Plc. She is seeking a full refund of the money to save her footwear business from collapse.

Although the bank has unmasked the identities of the fraudsters through their Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs), recovering the fraud proceeds has been stalled since June 7, when the incident occurred.

Mrs. Umoh said of his ordeal: “I run a micro small business called Idong Harrie Limited. We manufacture and retail handmade footwear and accessories using genuine leather and African fabrics for men, women and children. A few months ago, I got shortlisted by the Mandela Washington Fellowship as one of the 101 outstanding young leaders in Nigeria to undergo six-week training in the United States (U.S.). I decided to go to my bank – Diamond Bank Plc – to request for Personal Travel Allowance (PTA) for the trip.”

The customer said she wanted to request for $400 PTA but a bank official suggested she request for $3,000, which she did to enable her make some purchases for her factory while in the U.S.

On the fateful day, Mrs. transferred N1.5 million to her account with the Diamond Bank to enable her secure the PTA. She was told that her password was invalid while trying to log in to her Diamond Bank Mobile App. The failure of the second attempt prompted her to contact the bank official who advised her to re-activate her Mobile App.

It was in that process that her password was requested, and when she supplied it, the password was for the second time declared invalid. At that point, the customer was further advised by phone by a bank staff to visit the bank’s branch.

Unfortunately, less than five minutes after the call, she got a text message. Umoh narrated: “When I checked, it was a Diamond Bank message showing a N100, 000 transaction. I assumed it was a payment from a customer, which I was expecting. I then instructed my workers to start work on the customer’s order in the assumption that she had paid. A few seconds later, more texts came in and I saw they were still from Diamond Bank.

“I noticed that the texts were debit alerts and the names coming with them were strange. I said to myself that if Diamond Bank wanted to debit the money for the PTA, they won’t do so in tranches.

It immediately occurred to me that my account had been hacked, and I called the customer service, while simultaneously rushing to the bank.”

Continuing, she said: “I got through to customer care and instructed them to block my account. I was in the banking hall when more debit alerts kept coming in, and all attempt to get the customer service officer to block my account and stop further debits failed.

“My account was cleared of N2.1 million within 30 minutes. Since June, I have been going back and forth with the bank over this issue. In July, they refunded N668, 000 and closed the case. I was shocked at how unconcerned they were about my situation,” she stated.

Mrs. Umoh said the bank has refused to take responsibility for the fraud, prompting her to seek legal redress. She claimed not to be an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) card user and that her cheque book was locked up safe and her token secured as at the time of the incidence.

She said: “I didn’t click on any suspicious link like the bank has claimed. I always go to the bank or call customer care if I had any issue with my banking transactions. No one knew of the transaction I was making in relation to the PTA procurement except the bank officials handling the transaction. How can I put money in a bank and the next day it is gone,” she lamented to The Nation.

 Independent findings

 When contacted, Diamond Bank Plc said it will not comment on a matter that is already in court. But independent investigations from an insider in the bank who pleaded for anonymity, confirmed Mrs. Umoh operates an account with the Onikan branch of the bank.

The source also confirmed that the customer had in June, tried to log on Mobile App but her password was declined. The sources also confirmed that Mrs. Umoh called the bank’s Contact Centre and was advised to visit the branch for password reset, but only visited the next day.

“Umoh said she noticed a message on her phone but did not bother to check as she was busy, but got worried when alerts kept dropping on her phone. She then tried calling the Contact Centre on her way to the Ogunlana Branch, Surulere, Lagos. And the alert kept coming even while she was on her way to the branch. When she got to the branch, she lodged her complaint but unfortunately all funds had been fraudulently moved before the staff could block the accounts,” the source said.

Further investigations showed that the customer was later called by the bank on June 8 to confirm what happened. The lender promised to investigate and recover the funds.

The source narrated: “The complaint was investigated on June 8, 2017 and concluded on July 10, 2017 but the recommendations were only sent to the branch July 17, 2017 for implementation. The customer was advised the next day.

“The bank found out that the customer compromised her login details –Personal Identification Number (PIN) during a device change. However, during customer’s visit to the branch, she confirmed that she received registration codes on her mobile phone. The customer was advised via a letter dated July 18, 2017 of the outcome of the investigation and also that the bank was able to secure funds moved to other accounts in the bank over N600, 000 and this was to be credited to the customer’s account.

“The bank also informed the customer by writing that some other monies were being traced at other banks while the investigation continues. This letter was received and acknowledged by her relative as she was out of the country and sent to her via email as requested seeing she was out of town at that time”.

The source went on: “the bank had a meeting with the customer in the third week of August during which she insisted that she did not compromise her login details alleging that the insider, who had advised her to buy $3,000 PTA, could have connived with fraudsters to defraud her.”

On the step taken after the latest claim on PTA purchase, the source said: “We carried out a second level investigation on this and confirmed that the teller or the bank is not liable. The customer was verbally informed of the second investigation outcome and she threatened to use other means to recover the funds, insisting that the bank was to refund her entire money.

“The bank called the customer first week in September, to inform her that efforts were still being made to get the funds transferred from other banks that they were able to hold. She requested for the details of the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries’ names and amounts transferred were given to her.

“The bank called the customer again between the last week in August and the second week in September, 2017 to provide updates on the recovered funds and she said that the bank should be able to track down the other beneficiaries at-large using their BVNs as they are not ‘ghosts’.

“She was assured that the matter was not over and the bank would continue to trace and work with the authorities to recover what they could. She gave the bank an ultimatum that she would go ahead with legal action on the bank if her funds were not returned completely by mid-October. The matter is now in court. She served the bank legal papers on the 14th of September, 2017 and as such, the bank could not make an official statement at this time as it would be sub judice,” the source disclosed.

Another Lagos-based bank customer, Sanya Oni, who was debited N10, 000 twice for a single transaction by FirstBank took his complaints to the Consumer Protection Department of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) after the Tier-1 lender failed to resolve the matter.

A copy of a letter to the CBN unit, which was received by Mohammed Maryam Ndume, was sighted by The Nation. FirstBank was also copied in the mail. The customer wrote: “After series of representations to operatives of the First Bank of Nigeria to no effect, I am constrained to formally report to the apex monetary authority on my travails with FirstBank in the course of a routine PoS (Point of Sale) transaction.

“On Tuesday, October 10, 2017, I attempted to reload my electricity pre-paid meter (Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company) via my ATM card in the sum of N10, 000.  I could not get through as the payment machine returned ‘transaction declined’ message. Nonetheless, I got a Short Message Service (SMS) alert on my FirstBank account showing my account had been debited. The transaction finally sailed through on a second trial the next day. Unfortunately, every effort made to get the bank to reverse the value of the abortive transaction done the day earlier has met with frustrations.”

According to Oni, the bank gave him conflicting information on time of resolution, and has failed to reverse the transaction till date.

Responding, the customer Complaints Unit, FirstBank, in an emailed report, acknowledged receipt of the complaint, which has been ‘lodged through the appropriate channels against the acquirer’.

It said: “Enquires show that the disputed transaction was successfully processed from FirstBank to the distribution company and further investigation based on your insistence, a further inquiry was made and was declined by the distribution company with the attached receipt as proof. Seeing that you carried out the same transaction on October 12, 2017, we will investigate this with the acquirer and provide feedback within 10 working days’.

Unfortunately, the complaint is yet to be resolved over one month after the transaction was done.

Michael Azuka, an Abuja-based businessman lost N200, 000 in one day to fraudsters. The incidence occurred in mid-February after he activated his internet banking platform, obtained a token, chose a password. Until the disaster struck, all his transactions, including bills payment, cash transfers, and balance enquiries, among others, were done via mobile banking.

“I kept receiving text messages of multiple debits from my bank. The first was N50, 000 followed by another N100, 000 and finally N50, 000 alerts. These happened within two hours and all the calls to my bank to stop the fraudsters were not answered,” he explained.

Collins Nweze


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